The Challenge Foundation

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The Challenge Foundation helps hard working students break the cycle of poverty through education opportunities and support services. Pamela Fronk-Cole, executive director for The Challenge Foundation in Phoenix and Janis McFall, co-founder of The Challenge Foundation talk about the work of their organization.

José Cárdenas: The challenge foundation helps hard-working students break the cycle of poverty through education opportunities and support services. Joining me to talk about the foundation are Pam Fronk-Cole, executive director for the challenge foundation, Phoenix program. And Janis McFall, cofounder of the challenge foundation. Thank you both for joining us to talk about this fascinating program that you and your husband started a number of years ago. Why?

Janis McFall: We started the program in 1998 in Denver because of our work with the coalition of the homeless, and seeing so many children, either in the homeless shelters or in the projects that were very intelligent, motivated children, but with very little access to a good education. So, we decided we need to do something about this. It seems like such a waste for these children not to be able to get a good education. So, through our association with some of the independent schools in Denver, we were able to acquire scholarships for children starting in 6th grade. And all college prep-type schools, and we take them all of the way through high school and also into college. So, it has been very rewarding. The success of giving these children the opportunity has been just amazing.

José Cárdenas: And you now have been at it for -- since 1998.

Janis McFall: Yes, uh-hmm.

José Cárdenas: How many kids have gone through the program?

Janis McFall: Currently we have about 100 children in high school -- I mean in the lower schools. And then we have 35 children in college, and we have actually around 35 that have graduated from college. That is in the Denver program. We also started a program in El Paso, Texas, and we have around just under 40 girls in the program in El Paso. And then about three years ago, we decided to come to Phoenix, because Don and I were spending time here in Phoenix, and we wanted to get involved in the community here. So, we contacted all saints Episcopal day school and talked with -- they were very interested in starting a scholarship diversity program there. We started a partnership with them and it really has gone very well.

José Cárdenas: In large part because of your efforts, Pam.

Pam Fronk-Cole: Yes, we work really hard with public schools in our community, the boys and girls club, some of the refugee agencies and they are able to identify the students that are really showing strong potential for academic success, and showing some motivation, but also showing some need.

José Cárdenas: And what difference, the Phoenix program from the program in Colorado, you start younger. You start looking at kids in the fourth grade. Why is that?

Pam Fronk-Cole: We do. Our primary partner school Janis mentioned is All Saints Episcopal Day School. Their natural transition point for middle school begins in 5th grade. In order to make the transition as smooth as possible for our scholars, we wanted to keep with that school model. We identify fourth graders to then start in the program as 5th graders.

José Cárdenas: How many kids have been put into the program thus far?

Pam Fronk-Cole: We currently have 11 scholars at All Saints Episcopal Day School and our model is to identify between about 4-6 scholars every year that we will admit and then see all the way through their college graduation.

José Cárdenas: What's the process for making the selection?

Pam Fronk-Cole: It is pretty intense. Our commitment is so long. We assess the -- each applicant's academic abilities, standardized test scores, report cards, attendance. The parents fill out their own application as well. Because that parental piece has to be present. It is a long journey. And you have to have multiple people speaking into your life to encourage you along such a challenging journey. We make sure that we have an opportunity to talk with parents and other family members as well. And then we do our testing evaluation to make sure that the kids can be successful at a school like all saints Episcopal day school because the last thing we want is to put a child in a school where they can't be successful.

José Cárdenas: I imagine you have lots of connections and you have ways of identifying the students. If somebody watching the program wants to get more information, how do they do that?

Pam Fronk-Cole: They can go to our web site. Thechallengefoundation.org, and there is a way to fill out an interest form and contact us.

José Cárdenas: Janis, the program provides not only scholarship moneys to take people from 6th grade or in the case of Phoenix 5th grade through college. You do a lot of other stuff, support services. Describe what you do.

Janis McFall: Often people think of the challenge foundation as just a scholarship program. It is so much more than that. We have a mentoring program. We have tutoring. We have a summer school program that is approximately six weeks where the -- they are -- do academics in the morning and extracurricular activities in the afternoon. We also have a community service component where the children do work in the community to give back. So, you know, I can safely say that there is probably no other program like this --

José Cárdenas: You take care from start to finish.

Janis McFall: Exactly.

José Cárdenas: Fascinating program and we are delighting to have you both on to tell us about it. Thank you.

Janis McFall: Thank you.

José Cárdenas: And that's our show for tonight. From all of us here at eight and "Horizonte," thank you for watching. I'm Jose Cardenas. Have a good evening.

Video: Funding for "Horizonte" is made possible by contributions by the friends of eight, members of your Arizona PBS station. Captioning Performed by LNS Captioning www.lnscaptioning.com

Pamela Fronk-Cole:Executive Director, The Challenge Foundation; Janis McFall:Co-Founder, The Challenge Foundation;

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